Saudi Arabia frees additional Yemeni detainees after huge POW swap
Sana’a, Apr 17 (EFE).- Saudi Arabia on Monday released 104 prisoners of war to Yemen in a unilateral operation that came after a mass prisoner exchange concluded successfully.
Detainees were flown to the Houthi rebel-held capital Sana’a and Aden, the seat of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, on three flights organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Saudi-led coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki told official news agency SPA.
The first two flights landed in Sana’a with a total of 96 prisoners of war on board, while the third transported eight Yemenis to Aden from Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia, the ICRC posted on Twitter.
On Friday, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iran-linked Houthi rebels started a three-day operation to swap 869 people, the second largest since the start of the conflict in Yemen. In 2020, Yemen’s warring parties exchanged more than 1,000 people.
According to al-Malki, Monday’s release was a unilateral humanitarian initiative by Saudi Arabia to “create an atmosphere of dialogue between the Yemeni parties to reach a comprehensive and sustainable political solution that ends the Yemeni crisis.”
International organizations, as well as the Arab League, praised the release as a “positive step,” hoping it would increase the chances of ending the protracted war in the impoverished country.
Yemen, which has been locked in a devastating power struggle between the government and the Houthis since 2014, is suffering through the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, according to the UN, with more than 80% of its population dependent on aid.
The Saudi-Houthi agreement comes after Saudi Arabia and its arch rival Iran restored relations in early March, a move that could reshape the Middle East’s entire geopolitical landscape. EFE